The Jewish tradition of burning one’s chometz just got warmer — in the kind sense of the word.
Baltimore will host its first annual Chometz Giveaway on March 25 from 6:30 to 10:30 a.m. at the Pimlico Race Course clubhouse parking lot. The concept: Bring your unopened, new chometz to help fill a local food pantry for needy families in the area. Wrap and burn your used chometz in paper only.
Betsy Gardner, neighborhood liaison for the office of neighborhood relations of City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, is the brains behind the event. She told the JT that each year when she would arrange the traditional chometz burning, residents would bemoan the oodles of food tossed into the garbage ahead of the Jewish holiday, which prohibits people from eating leavened products.
“I was up at night, tossing in bed, thinking about the chometz burning. … This idea popped into my head,” she said.
Gardner immediately phoned Mitch Posner, executive director of Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc., and Julius “Julio” Colon, president and chief executive officer of Park Heights Renaissance. The two organizations recently launched a partnership to build a housing development in the Greenspring neighborhood of Northwest Baltimore for limited-income seniors. The Renaissance also recently acquired the Towanda Community Center, a rec center, to serve area residents.
Gardner’s idea: The chometz could go to area residents through the rec center; a recent dinner indicated that many of the people in that community were struggling to support their families.
The meeting, said Gardner, was successful, and Posner, who formerly worked with GEDCO, where he started a food pantry, also was able to connect the Towanda Community Center with his former place of employment. Now, Towanda is planning to open a full-fledged pantry, too. The chometz sharing will be its first donation of food.
“Any chance I can get, I am always trying to bridge these two communities,” said Gardner. “I hate the invisible line that divides the two communities. I want to erase that line.”
For his part, Posner is thrilled about the synergy and the ability to take the Jewish community’s relationship with the Renaissance to the next level.
“It is great that we can expand [our] relationship to help people in need in our neighboring community in a time that is so inspirational for so many of us,” said Posner. “What a beautiful act of chesed to bring chometz food that … might otherwise be thrown away … and to help people in neighboring communities. The core principles of Jewish communal participation are tzedakah, chesed and tikkun olam and this represents all of those.”
The event, according to a publicity flier, has been approved by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann of Agudath Israel of Park Heights. For more information, contact Kris Burnett at 410-500-5305 or visit chaibaltimore.org.